When initial reports of recorded racist remarks made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling first surfaced Friday night, I said that by Sunday this would be the lead story everywhere. The ensuing firestorm has already exceeded those expectations.
The last time I anticipated a developing story would reach cataclysmic levels was November, 2011. You remember that? Penn State, Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno and all the other heads that rolled in mere days. By the following summer Paterno’s statue was unceremoniously removed from the campus and Sandusky was in prison, while Penn State faced some of the harshest sanctions in NCAA history.
The Donald Sterling story is just beginning, but like the Penn State scandal it will be severe and shake the Clippers franchise to its core. How many players, coaches, fans or other personnel will want their names associated with this franchise in any way come October?
Among possible punishments already discussed include the loss of draft picks for multiple years and allowing current players to terminate existing contracts.
Why just doesn’t the NBA just go all the way, and break up the Clippers – literally.
The NBA being unhappy with Donald Sterling is nothing new. There was talk in the 1980s about the league “terminating” his franchise over the poor operation of the team. It would have been much easier to do then.
New NBA commissioner Adam Silver should seriously consider disbanding the franchise. The members of the current squad could immediately become free agents, and what fanbase is left by the end of the week need not worry about investing additional cash for future tickets.
To replace the Clippers, I would award an expansion team to Seattle for the 2014-15 season. They would receive the fifth and 15th overall picks in the draft and current Clippers players would be welcome to sign with the replacement franchise.
I would worry about the legal maneuvering later, since that will likely take years. Fortunately Los Angeles already has a NBA franchise and even in their worst year the Lakers have remained far more popular than the Clippers. A second Los Angeles franchise can be revisited three or four years down the road, either by way of another expansion team or a franchise relocation that may come about.
It is a drastic measure, but it would be most appropriate for the NBA to quickly move on from what has already erupted as one of the biggest debacles to hit professional sports. It would also get Seattle back in the fold, and hopefully a respectable roster from the start. Other teams (at least those under the salary cap) could also bid on the likes of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul.
And don’t worry about current head coach Doc Rivers, since the Knicks, Lakers and Timberwolves are already in the market for new coaches.
If you thought the scene in Oakland was surreal for Game 4 on Sunday night, imagine the circus due to hit the Staples Center Tuesday night when the Clippers return home for Game 5 of their first-round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors.
Hopefully the team formerly known as the Clippers will not stop with turning its warm-ups inside out. The player should just design completely new duds and take the floor under a different banner for the night.
The Los Angeles Clippers history should be put out of its misery, and Donald Sterling’s days as an NBA owner should be finished.